Title: A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: The journey of Doaa Al Zamel
Author: Melissa Fleming
For years, I struggled to fathom L K Hogan’s ironic, nay oxymoronic, advice to the readers of books until I tried to follow his golden rule by reading Melissa Fleming’s incredibly soul-stirring biography (A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea) of a young Syrian refugee Doaa Al Zamel from the last page. Hogan advised the readers rather quizzically, “Start reading a book from the end and jump onto reading it from the beginning.” Bizarre advice, isn’t it? I, too, thought so. But no more, because this is the first book in my life which I began from the fag-end to jump onto the beginning.
You too start reading it from ‘A Note from Doaa’. The long, but arresting, description of a tearful ordeal of this young woman ends on page 266. Then appears ‘A Note from Doaa’. It’s so moving that I cannot but quote verbatim a short passage: “In this book, I’ve shared my suffering with you. It’s only a small glimpse of the hardship and pain that refugees around the world endure. I represent just one voice among the millions who risk their lives every day in order to live a life of dignity.”
That a young girl, slapped and slandered by the unkind vicissitudes of life, is talking about the dignity of human life and existence is something that makes you cogitate deeply. Deeply in the sense that why we are so insouciant to the dignity of an individual or a group of people, who are all at sea, literally as well metaphorically?
Doaa Al Zamel was rescued after four days in the Mediterranean Sea and survived on a child’s ring. And when she was rescued, she had two babies in her arms, not her own, and these babies were on the edge of death. When she was flown to the hospital on Crete (Greece), the doctors at the paediatric hospital said about the one surviving baby Masa, “This baby. We’re really worried that she won’t survive.” But Doaa kept her alive for four days in the water and that’s a miracle! Well, in fact, maybe it wasn’t a miracle, because she showed those babies so much love and she helped that baby survive. This is a story that’s full of love, full of courage and it’s full of humanity.
That such an unnerving ordeal couldn’t dampen her indomitable spirit is the triumph of human endurance. It consolidates Rabindranath Tagore’s famous quote that “Though adversities are great, man is greater than the adversities.” This young woman defied all odds and overcame every impediment that befell her, giving credence to Albert Camus’ famous line when the maverick French existentialist thundered, “There’s no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.” Doaa proved him right. She flayed fluctuating fate with furious faith in the invincibility and sanctity of human existence.
Read this book for the augmentation of compassion that’s hidden in all hearts, but needs to be stirred for universal empathy. The issue of refugees is not a limited or local phenomenon. It’s a phenomenon we all can relate to. Indians can relate to it very deeply as we have seen and dealt with it post 1947 partition-riots, aftermath of Indo-Pak War in 1971 and the rehabilitation of Bangladeshi refugees and the displacement of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley.
A kind of universal empathy is a must to dealing with this situation and we all must remember that humanity is actually a seamless big family where all can and should be accommodated with love, dignity, compassion and fellow-feeling.
The fate of the homeless should be a universal concern. Most of us are ensconced in the cosiness of four walls and we will have to wake up to the collective deplorable fate of people who have been rendered homeless owing to the unprecedented turmoil and providential blitzkrieg of times and tides. To quote Daniel Dafoe: “Home lost is life lost in the desert of incertitude.” This dismal fate will have to be shared equally by all the citizens of the world. Because it’s our combined destiny.
We should also condemn wars and conflicts that render people homeless, maimed and scarred forever. Waging a war is a throwback to primitivism and a stark reminder of our troglodyte past. Be humane and treat every human as your alter-ego. Reading this book is a humanising experience and empathising with the trampled kismet of destiny’s offspring, is a saga of shared despondency, yet, one of faith and hope.